MadWorld (Wii)- Review

In an alternate universe where Sega launches their Dreamcast II and becomes even more popular than the Wii, Madworld would be their shining opus to Sega’s trademark: style and violence. Developed by Platinum Games (Bayonetta, Anarchy Reigns) and producer Atsushi Inaba (Viewtiful Joe, Okami, Devil May Cry), MadWorld satiates the bloodthirst of the most deranged Sega fanboy. Anyone living throughout the 90’s remembers the controversy Sega brought along with their Sega Genesis, having the bloody version of Mortal Kombat and creating the ESRB with Night Trap on the Sega CD. Sega has never shied away from violent games, but has fallen in ranks the past decade in controversy to Rockstar Games– anyone remember Manhunt? An open-world beat-em-up, MadWorld builds upon Sega classics like Jet Grind Radio, Streets of Rage, and Mortal Kombat to provide a gory, visceral experience catered to the adult Wii audience. With a gritty high contrast black-and-white color palette, MadWorld plays like Jet Grind Radio, except instead of decorating your game world with  colorful graffiti, you paint the town red with the blood and guts of your enemies–the only color present in the game.

Set on the fictional Jefferson Island, you play as Jack Cayman, a chainsaw-wielding former marine, forced to participate in a televised death match game show (DeathWatch). Imagine an updated and fully-fleshed version of Smash TV and you get the idea. As Jack enters a section of the city, he must reach a certain score before fighting the boss. Extra points are awarded to those creative enough to earn them. Impale an enemy with a caution sign, shove a barrel over them, and then hang them on a meat hook to achieve a maximum combo. The comically over-saturated violence adds to the fun of the game, as you uncover new challenges and death traps to rack up points. The “Man Darts”, “Man Golf”, and various blood sport minigames not so subtly poke fun at the Wii Sports craze (Wii Blood Sports is a good description of these games). Throughout each level, you’ll unlock new “Blood Bath Challenges” where you can accumulate massive amounts of points by causing as much mayhem as possible. The challenges do repeat during some levels, but are nevertheless absolutely entertaining. The only downside to combat in the title is how crucial combo kills and challenges are in completing the game. You can’t simply hack everyone into pieces with your chainsaw (its incredibly easy and fun, though!). Because you have a time limit in each stage (around 30 mins), acquiring enough points to reach the stage boss can be tough (having only three lives a level doesn’t help).

Kreese Kreely (John Dimaggio) and Howard “Buckshot” Holmes(Greg Proops) are the announcers of DeathWatch, giving you second-by-second encouragements, insults, and insights on your unfiltered mayhem. The voice-acting is top-notch, and the x-rated comedy stylings of Greg and John will leave you chuckling at their depravity. Jack’s gruff voice (Steven Blum) adds to overall Sin City feel of the game, and every other character’s voice acting is great. The underground hip-hop soundtrack blends in well with the cel-shaded black and white graphics, driving home that Jet Grind Radio feel. The only complaint I can lodge would be against the repetitive announcer segments. For two minute challenges, the announcers only have two or three lines repeated over and over.

Although many might find the Wii’s smart gesture controls gimmicky, in MadWorld they literally make the game. With a regular gamepad, MadWorld just wouldn’t be as fun of a ride. Tapping A unleashes a slew of punches and B whips out your devastating chainsaw. Flailing around the Wiimote like you have a chainsaw attached to your arm will do the same in the game. Stun an enemy enough and you can perform a gory finishing move. The type of finishing move changes to different enemies, but my favorite has to be pulling the Wiimote and Nunchuk apart to twist off an enemy’s head. The finishing moves aren’t for everyone, they are by far the goriest and most visceral action scenes. Moving, jumping, and rotating the camera are haphazardly controlled by the Nunchuk. The camera can be a big issue during boss fights and more powerful enemies, as the lock on feature barely works and the camera can be a little wonky.

What would a great beat-em-up be without a slew of increasingly challenging boss fights? In MadWorld, you’ll face a giant monster named Lil Eddie [pictured], a werewolf, an armadillo man, and many more B-movie villains (the game doesn’t take itself seriously). Boss fights are not very hard at all. If you use the right gesture at the cue, you’ll get in a skirmish with the boss where successful time-event gestures will result in a big blow to the baddie’s health. With a little strategy, the bosses are mostly easy (until a few of them recharge their health–cough, cough, Frank). The most annoying enemies are the Drill Man and the Grim Reaper, who will appear randomly through the castle stage and wipe out half of your health.

The story, written by Yasumi Matsuno of Final Fantasy and Tactics Ogre fame, is surprisingly well-written for a bloody beat-em-up. This isn’t a Streets of Rage or Final Fight game with a short and vague story at the beginning. In MadWorld, the basic Running Man plot evolves into conspiracy theory, eventually revealing that contestants must fight against a lethal virus to obtain a vaccine. I found the story line to be engaging, though playing this game puts my mind off of paying attention.

All in all, MadWorld’s no-holds-barred approach to slapstick video game violence will leave you entertained for a good 5-6 hours. The smart gestures will leave you sore after a few tough boss fights, but really make you feel like you’re a cold-blooded chainsaw wielding killer. The Jet Grindhouse Radio level design and classic beat-em-up finishing moves wouldn’t disappoint even the most hardcore Mortal Kombat fan. While every Sega Genesis fan probably owned Streets of Rage, any Wii aficionado or game collector must own MadWorld. Despite its few flaws, the game may just be the most violent and fun game on the system. Get it while its still cheap!

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Secret Files: Tunguska Wii Review

If you’ve read my previous post, you’ll know I love point-and-click adventure games. When I did my review on Shadowgate for the NES, I mentioned the innovation behind porting a “MacVenture” to a home console. While Nintendo more or less forsook adventure games on the SNES, N64, and Gamecube, there was a bit of an adventure game renaissance on the Wii. Because of it’s mouse-like Wiimote, adventure games found a second home on Nintendo’s best selling console. Notable Telltale remakes made their way to the console, like Sam and Max and Monkey Island, as well as Revolution Software’s 1996 classic Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars. The Wiimote and hardware made emulation of these games very simple and easy to pick up. Due to a big drop in demand for adventure games in the early 2000’s, adventure companies were cautious with their products. Telltale Games, founded by former LucasArts designers, simplified puzzles, provided hint systems, and did away with tedious pixel hunting. As a classic adventure game fan, I am a little disappointed in the simplistic puzzles, but, at the same time, I like being able to finish an adventure without resorting to a guide.

Story

Secret Files: Tunguska (Geheimakte Tunguska in German) is a testament to the new era of adventure gaming. Published by Bavarian company Deep Silver for the PC in 2006, it was released in 2010 on the Wii and Nintendo DS. A sequel, Secret Files 2: Puritas Codas, was released in 2009 on the Wii and PC as well. Like a surprisingly large amount of adventure games, Secret Files’ takes a real historical event and builds a compelling story around it rife with mystery and conspiracy. You play as Nina Kalenkov, an ordinary girl turned sleuth as she must locate her scientist father, Vladimir Kalenkov, after a mysterious break-in at his Berlin museum. While at the museum, Nina suspects a mysterious hooded brotherhood as the culprit, but as the story progresses, the real enemy becomes clear. Built as the center of the story is the real life 1908 Tunguska Event — the largest asteroid impact in recorded history. Supposedly the radiation from the event has caused strange growth of the surrounding fauna, and it is believed Nina’s father was kidnapped by Russians to investigate the phenomenon. The story will take Nina, and her father’s colleague Max Gruber, across the world as they uncover a intriguing conspiracy regarding the event. As the story unfolds, Nina and Max explore Cuba, Ireland, Russia, Tibet, and Germany, piecing together the mystery. The mysterious narrative reminded me of Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars and Beneath a Steel Sky, both games with numerous plot twists and conspiracy-laden themes. The mood overall is dark and unsettling, though they try and fail at times to make it funny –just watch the montage before the credits.  The story is quite engaging though derivative for an adventure game. Despite its strong narrative, the English language translation is rife with poor voice acting and mistranslation.

The Wii version did not come with alternate languages tracks, and I really wish it did. The voice acting is sub-par to say the least. Despite taking place in five different countries, every single NPC speaks with an American accent. I’m not sure how this was in the German version, but in the English version not even the Irish characters have accents, it really took me out of the story. Nina’s voice acting is a bit annoying, her high-pitched valley girl voice just doesn’t fit with the dark mood of the story — I really cringe every time she calls her dad, “Daddy”. The English translation is also not perfect, resulting in a few word variants not spoken in standard American English.

Gameplay

Secret Files has one of the best controls of any adventure game console port. You control Nina and Max’s movements with the Nunchuk and point and click with the Wiimote. The 2.5D environment is very easy to navigate and the ‘snoop key’ –activated by the 1 button — highlights all interactive objects, saving the player from pixel hunting. Like in most adventure games, items in your inventory can be combined together, but, to make the process even simpler, the controller will gently vibrate when two items are able to be combined. This was a great feature, as I would often scroll through my massive inventory in games like Monkey Island trying to find out if i can combine two of my items. Be prepared to deal with a rather large inventory; you’ll often guide Nina to dig through trash to obtain four or five new items — she’s a real scavenger! There are also a few items you’ll never use — an onion, a teddy bear, and a ladle– so don’t worry if you missed something, you can still finish the game.

Graphically, the game is dated, though it was praised for its graphics at the time. Cutscenes are the most dated looking, having a similar quality to an average PS2 cutscene. The backgrounds are beautifully rendered and interactive objects blend in well with

the environments. The music is minimal, appearing only in cutscenes and music playing in the background.

Puzzles are very straightforward and less obtuse than the puzzles of older adventure games. I finished at least three-quarters of the game without any guide. In each location lies a main puzzle, one in which the game provides a hint for if you’re confused. These involve traditional puzzles, like arranging four different coins Sudoku-style on a board. Lateral thinking puzzles advance the story and are incredibly entertaining. My favorite puzzle was fixing a little girl’s bike and camera to get photographs of some masked men terrorizing the museum. In return you receive a microwave hamster magnet, a very subtle reference to Maniac Mansion. Another wonderful puzzle involves using a cat for taping a phone conversation. The puzzles were very entertaining  and did not need much lateral thinking chops to solve.

Overall, Secret Files: Tunguska is an enjoyable adventure game for the Wii, despite being a somewhat average adventure release on the PC, comparatively. Puzzles are enjoyable, yet not too difficult, and the story is very entertaining, despite being a somewhat typical adventure game storyline. The voice acting is the games’ only true downfall, which may be remedied with a German language track option. The Wii version can be easily obtained for under $10 and the PC version and its sequels can be found on Steam for about the same price. Secret Files: Tunguska is a true hidden gem on the system and should be played by any fan of the Wii or adventure games.